Santiago: Sabangan Cove (aka Santiago Cove)
In the small town of Santiago, Ilocos Sur, lies a small patch of paradise-like cove called the Sabangan Cove, or more known as the Santiago Cove. It is also dubbed as the “Boracay of Ilocos Sur” because of its white sands.
This place is often overlooked by tourists traveling to the North. But for those who stumbled on this beach, their awesome experience would make them swear to return. It’s exactly what happened to us several years back when we once visited this beach. Since then we never missed this beach whenever we traveled to Ilocos.
The coast, spanning almost a kilometer long, boasts with white sands and calm waters that make it perfect for swimming. During the high sun, you can see the white fine sands that slowly dissolve when stepped on. During evenings, the water’s temperatures are just right for those who want to bathe. And being in a cove surrounded by reefs, strong waves are calmed down before reaching the shore.
Surrounding the beachline are rows of the cabana, painted with different colors, that were built by the local government. Commonly, it is occupied with eateries or stores selling sea products. During evenings, electric lighting illuminates the beach. There are also cottages that can be rented.
For those who want to take a break from beach activities, you can also relax on one side while watching the sea. The beach faces west, which gives a pleasant view of the horizon, especially during sunset.
In one part of the cove, a view deck was built. This feature gives a view of the whole cove, as well as the mountains of Ilocos at the distance that serves as the beach’s backdrop. At the cove’s southern tip is the Ilocos Marina Beach Resort, owned by the Singsons. Its room rates range from 2,000 up to 3,000 pesos. It offers cable TV and wifi in each room, a swimming pool and a restaurant. Swimming and diving gears are also available, as well as rentable motorized water vehicles.
VITALIS BEACH RESORT
Even from the distance, the blue and white villas standing on the cliff are already noticeable. The Santorini-inspired resort has a breathtaking view of the sea and the cove. If you prefer a high-end accommodation, this might suit you. A one-bedroom villa can be rented for PhP11,500 (and up to 13,000 during peak season) while the 2-bedroom villas that can accommodate up to four persons can reach up to 20,900 (and up to 23,400 during peak season) with access to private pool. The price alone makes it out of reach for ordinary flocks like us. But for those privileged, they will be experiencing the priceless comfort and solitude being offered, and also savor the sumptuous foods being served.
And because we’re not that privileged, we just roamed around the place and marveled its beauty. The resort is accessible to the public, though limited to the entrance, façade, overlooking deck and the chapel. Other parts of the resort like the pool and clubhouse can be accessed only by the guests that already booked here. Thanks to the friendly and hospitable staff, we were allowed to roam inside (and swim at their pool) even though we were not guests. This resort is managed by Artstream Hospitality Management Group, Inc.
AMBUCAO UP TO SAN ESTEBAN
If you want to see something else aside from the majestic cove, you can go straight from the road at the northern part of the cove going to Barangay Ambucao. The small barangay depicts a rural life. While traveling on the narrow road, you will most likely meet with the locals carrying their fish catch and the kids playing in the middle.
Going further on the road and you will be stumbling on the Biak-na-Bato of Ambucao. Known as the Mapisi Rock, the flocks had already gone here several times. People often go here to swim as an alternative to Sabangan when the latter becomes overcrowded.
The road leads up to the town of San Esteban. For those who don’t wish to use the highway, this is the alternative route which also offers a scenic view. This site is protected by Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources because of a fish sanctuary located here.
Take the road going to Vigan, Ilocos Sur. You will be reaching the town of Santiago shortly after passing Candon. After arriving at the town proper, turn left and take the 1.5km road going to Barangay Sabangan.
Take the bus going to Vigan and tell the driver to drop you off at Santiago. The trip takes eight hours from Manila. After arriving at the town proper, take a tricycle and tell to drop you off at Sabangan. You can also ride a tricycle to go to other places here.
Santiago cove is also home to the centuries old-spanish watchtower located along its coast. Unfortunately, it is not accessible because it’s in a private property.